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Emperor Penguins

The most regal of species, the Emperor is the largest living penguin, standing 40 to 50 inches and weighing from 66 to 83 pounds. There are some 350,000 of these elegantly painted birds in about forty Emperor penguin colonies scattered around the fringes of the Antarctic continent. The colonies are usually found on sea-ice during the winter and spring months. Emperor penguins are the most biologically interesting of the southern species. They have been recorded diving to a depth of more than 1500 feet for up to 18 minutes, although the usual depth and duration of their dives is much less. But it is their unique breeding behavior that differentiates the Emperor from other penguin species. Rather than breeding during the warmer, lighter summer months, Emperors breed through the cold, dark winter. The female lays a single egg in May after a 63-day gestation period, and then passes the egg over to her mate and goes to sea to feed. When the male takes over the incubation, he fasts for 9 weeks, all the while balancing the egg on his feet, where it is insulated by a thick roll of skin and feathers. During this period the males huddle together for added warmth and protection against the bitter winds and sub-zero temperatures. By the time the female returns the male will have lost up to one third of his body weight; she takes over feeding the now-hatched chick for a six week period, while the male makes another long trek over the ice to find food.

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Emperor Chick's and Their Families